In the fourth chapter of Daniel, we find Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, declaring throughout his kingdom the signs and wonders that the Most High God had done for him. This declaration was a public confession of salvation which the God of heaven had wrought for the king despite his persistent rebellion against His revelation of Himself to the monarch. It was this public declaration which his grandson Belshazzar would later proudly rebel against, and cause the kingdom to fall. (Daniel 5:21-22)
Nebuchadnezzar declared: “I saw a dream which made me afraid, and the thoughts upon my bed and the visions of my head troubled me.” (Daniel 4:5) A prophecy revealing the manifold wisdom of God and His judgments was shown to the king. Daniel, because his God was “a God of gods, and a revealer of secrets” (Dan. 2:48) was promoted to be “Master of the magicians” (Dan. 4:9), thereby having influence to teach the ways of God to the heathen.
“Therefore made I a decree to bring in all the wise men of Babylon before me, that they might make known unto me the interpretation of the dream. Then came in the magicians, the astrologers, the Chaldeans, and the soothsayers: and I told the dream before them; but they did not make known unto me the interpretation thereof.” (Daniel 4:6-7)
It was evident that despite what they had learned, they were not ready to speak to Nebuchadnezzar regarding the interpretation of his dream. Daniel, as Master over the magicians, was given the responsibility of declaring the matter to him. The wise men of Babylon, apparently troubled by the dream of Nebuchadnezzar and not willing to give the interpretation, called upon him because “no secret troubleth” him.
“But at the last Daniel came in before me, whose name was Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god, and in whom is the spirit of the holy gods: and before him I told the dream, saying, O Belteshazzar, master of the magicians, because I know that the spirit of the holy gods is in thee, and no secret troubleth thee, tell me the visions of my dream that I have seen, and the interpretation thereof.” (Daniel 4:8-9)
THE DREAM OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR
“Thus were the visions of mine head in my bed; I saw, and behold a tree in the midst of the earth, and the height thereof was great. The tree grew, and was strong, and the height thereof reached unto heaven, and the sight thereof to the end of all the earth: The leaves thereof were fair, and the fruit thereof much, and in it was meat for all: the beasts of the field had shadow under it, and the fowls of the heaven dwelt in the boughs thereof, and all flesh was fed of it.” (Daniel 4:10-12)
Daniel likened this tree to Nebuchadnezzar, as the dream was for him personally; yet the tree and the surrounding implications meant more than this. “It is thou, O king, that art grown and become strong: for thy greatness is grown, and reacheth unto heaven, and thy dominion to the end of the earth.” (Daniel 4:22)
The tree was symbolic of a righteous dominion under the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. To Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel explained that “the God of heaven hath given thee a kingdom, power, and strength, and glory. And wheresoever the children of men dwell, the beasts of the field and the fowls of the heaven hath he given into thine hand, and hath made thee ruler over them all.” (Dan. 2:37-38) Yet why was the dominion symbolized by a tree? It is because “The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree: he shall grow like a cedar in Lebanon.”
(Psalms 92:12) Remember, when Nebuchadnezzar had this dream, he said “I was…flourishing in my palace.” (Daniel 4:4) Therefore the tree was symbolic of that dominion which the God of heaven gave into his hands while he reigned righteously, according to the light that He permitted to shine upon him. Yet it is not only symbolic of Nebuchadnezzar’s dominion; the personal interpretation for Nebuchadnezzar was more for God’s people at “the time of the end”. After explaining the rest of the dream, we will look at briefly at five other ways this dream is interpreted according to the Scriptures.
THE JUDGMENT OF SEVEN TIMES
“I saw in the visions of my head upon my bed, and, behold, a watcher and an holy one came down from heaven; He cried aloud, and said thus, Hew down the tree, and cut off his branches, shake off his leaves, and scatter his fruit: let the beasts get away from under it, and the fowls from his branches:…” (Daniel 4:13-14) We see that the dominion of Nebuchadnezzar is cut down, that he will not be flourishing; for this to occur, Nebuchadnezzar must rebel against the light the Most High has crowned him with. The “Watcher and Holy One” shall make a judgment for the king’s sake. “Nevertheless leave the stump of his roots in the earth, even with a band of iron and brass, in the tender grass of the field; and let it be wet with the dew of heaven, and let his portion be with the beasts in the grass of the earth:…” (Daniel 4:15)
The stump was not to be uprooted from the earth. Daniel explained: “whereas they commanded to leave the stump of the tree roots; thy kingdom shall be sure unto thee, after that thou shalt have known that the heavens do rule.” The kingdom of Babylon here was not to be entirely destroyed. It is Christ’s desire to save, and not destroy (Luke 9:56), pleading with the Father “Destroy it not; for a blessing is in it: so will I do for my servants’ sakes, that I may not destroy them all.” (Isaiah 65:8) Nebuchadnezzar was to learn that the heavens do rule, and the Most High cannot bless unrighteousness; his portion was to “be with the beasts in the grass of the earth” until he learned this lesson. The judgment decree continued: “Let his heart be changed from man’s, and let a beast’s heart be given unto him; and let seven times pass over him.” The word for “time” means “a year”; and for seven years, Nebuchadnezzar was to lose his consciousness as a man, and become as a beast of the field for seven years.
Why was this judgment pronounced upon Nebuchadnezzar? The Most High God saw within Nebuchadnezzar the willingness to follow Him, but his pride and unbelief hindered him continually from obeying the light. We are told that “This matter is by the decree of the watchers, and the demand by the word of the holy ones: to the intent that the living may know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will, and setteth up over it the basest of men.” (Daniel 4:17) The Sovereign of the Universe abases the proud, and exalts the humble, giving the kingdom into their hands; for so Christ declared: “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” (Matthew 5:5) Infinite wisdom, goodness, and mercy made a determination to purge Nebuchadnezzar’s character that it might be polished in a manner that would make him fit to reign in heavenly places.
THE SEVEN TIMES OF NEBUCHADNEZZAR
It came to pass that Nebuchadnezzar did indeed fall into this judgment. “All this came upon the king Nebuchadnezzar. At the end of twelve months he walked in the palace of the kingdom of Babylon. The king spake, and said, Is not this great Babylon, that I have built for the house of the kingdom by the might of my power, and for the honour of my majesty? While the word was in the king’s mouth, there fell a voice from heaven, saying, O king Nebuchadnezzar, to thee it is spoken; The kingdom is departed from thee. And they shall drive thee from men, and thy dwelling shall be with the beasts of the field: they shall make thee to eat grass as oxen, and seven times shall pass over thee, until thou know that the most High ruleth in the kingdom of men, and giveth it to whomsoever he will.” (Daniel 4:28-32)
It was the king’s pride that revealed his condition. He had failed to fear God and give glory to Him; when this occurred, the judgment fell upon him. Seven years this went over Nebuchadnezzar, and then after being driven out, and having the kingdom depart from him, it was restored in his humility. “And at the end of the days I Nebuchadnezzar lifted up mine eyes unto heaven, and mine understanding returned unto me, and I blessed the most High, and I praised and honoured him that liveth for ever, whose dominion is an everlasting dominion, and his kingdom is from generation to generation:…Now I Nebuchadnezzar praise and extol and honour the King of heaven, all whose works are truth, and his ways judgment: and those that walk in pride he is able to abase.”
(Daniel 4:34-37) Many truly think that’s all there is to this vision. There is no prophecy to be had in it past Nebuchadnezzar. That there is a good life lesson, but little more to had from it. Understand however, that Daniel declared the personal interpretation to him, but did not give the prophetic interpretation.
I want you to take notice of several things in this vision. As we will go over them again and again in the prophetic interpretation.
1) The flourishing of a righteous dominion that fulfills God’s purposes on earth is likened to a tree.
2) The tree was cut down because of pride and rebellion against the light of heaven.
3) The tree had a band of iron and brass around the stump, not being destroyed, but spared in part.
4) Seven times was the duration of the judgment.
5) When it began, it was classified as the king being “driven out”.
6) When the first dominion was restored, the king was lowly in heart.
THE DECREE OF HEAVEN
Why was this judgment given “by decree of the watchers and the demand of the holy ones”? It is because the angels had marked the course of Nebuchadnezzar, eve as Christ, the heavenly Watcher beholds the children of men. The holy ones saw that judgment was necessary, and those who beheld Nebuchadnezzar’s course declare the measure of judgment. But how did they judge? They judged according to the law of God.
“If ye will not yet for all this hearken unto me, then I will punish you seven times more for your sins. And I will break the pride of your power; and I will make your heaven as iron, and your earth as brass:…” (Leviticus 26:18-19) The pride of power in Nebuchadnezzar was broken, and seven times passed over him, with the band of iron and brass around his dominion; symbols of judgment.
Yet this “seven times” was given to His people expressly “if ye shall despise my statutes, or if your soul abhor my judgments, so that ye will not do all my commandments, but that ye break my covenant…” (Leviticus 26:15) This reveals that, heaven judges according to the law of God (often called the law of Moses with it’s statutes and judgments).
THE PROPHETIC INTERPRETATION
It would be careless of us to think there is nothing more in Daniel 4 but a good moral lesson. It can easily be proven that the interpretation given was the personal application of the prophecy and not the main prophetic application. In prophecy, a symbolic vision or dream of “time” always speaks of prophetic periods of time, and not literal time. Literal time poses many problems to many of the symbolic prophecies that the Scripture gives. A day in Bible prophecy equals a year according to Leviticus 25, Ezekiel 4:6, and Numbers 14:34. More than this, a time is a year’s worth of days; on the calendar God gave in the beginning, a Scriptural year was 360 days. Therefore seven times is seven years, and seven years is seven multiplied by 360. This equates to a totality of 2520 prophetic days/years.
Does that seem like a long space of time? It would be a great judgment against a most offensive crime to punish for 2520 years. Yet that being said, not all “seven times” in Leviticus 26 referred to actual periods of time either, but rather a sevenfold punishment. Time is merely one application of the judgment which can take many diverse forms. We will examine four of the most complete prophetic interpretations of this prophecy. To do this, we will examine the six points of criteria above for each. Bearing in mind the tree symbolizing a righteous dominion, and the cutting down of it for seven times as the judgment thereof.
To see the prophetic applications of these, click on the links below:
The Judgment of Seven Times I: The Prophecy of Nebuchadnezzar
The Judgement of Seven Times II: The Fall of Man
The Judgment of Seven Times III: The Northern Kingdom
The Judgment of Seven Times IV: The Southern Kingdom
The Judgment of Seven Times V: The Beasts of Prophecy